Westfield Doncaster seeks further expansion, but can it better interact with its surrounds?

Westfield owner and manager Scentre Group has sought an amendment to the Manningham planning scheme in order to allow for a sizeable expansion of Westfield Doncaster.

Manningham City Council are currently considering the application for what is known as for the Manningham Planning Scheme Amendment C104. Scentre Group is seeking the right to add approximately 43,000sqm of additional gross retail lettable area and 18,000sqm of additional commercial office space, which they believe will support increased employment opportunities on Doncaster Hill.

In addition a revamped bus interchange and parking for 2,500 vehicles is included within the masterplan, with the latter spread over basement and multi-storey options.

According to application documents Westfield Doncaster which covers 58 hectares is seeking to become "a ‘state of the art’, contemporary, sustainable, high-density, mixed-use village that enhances the social, environmental, economic and cultural elements of the region."

A visual marker for the redevelopment is expected in the form of a new commercial tower which will front Williamsons Road. The aforementioned office space will be located over ten levels set above six basement levels and a retail podium, with the height of the tower capped at approximately 50 metres.

A sought after built form outcome. Planning image: Tract Consultants

Along with the new bus interchange which has been designed in consultation with Public Transport Victoria and bus operator Transdev, a new public forecourt of some 400sqm will also front Williamsons Road. As well as providing a common entrance for both commercial and retail uses, the public forecourt will act as new a public amenity and meeting space.

As defined within the application, new opportunities for the public realm include:

  • New street interfaces which should incorporate architectural and landscape design and pedestrian-generating and retail activities at street level to support a better pedestrian experience.
  • Relocated and expanded forecourt/entry with active frontages in appropriate locations to establish a vibrant public space along Williamsons Road.
  • Potential upper level public space above Williamsons Road to provide passive surveillance and take advantage of views over surrounding area and Melbourne CBD.
  • Establish appropriate landscaping to provide shade in the public realm, soften built form and acoustic walls, and further enhance Williamsons Road boulevard.

Current development

With the prospect of another large-scale expansion on the cards, Scentre Group have acted upon an existing planning permit to alleviate the demand for car parking onsite.

Currently two tower cranes are servicing an expansion of the multideck car park toward the eastern border of the site, bound by Grosvenor Street to the north and Goodson Street to the south. This build will allow for an additional 550 plus vehicle spaces.

With onsite car parking set to expand beyond 4,770 spaces, a hefty 7,430 car parking spaces slated for the future Westfield Doncaster according to the Urban Design Report which accompanies Amendment C104.

Westfield's current expansion is well into construction

Comment: hard act to follow

Westfield Doncaster's most recent mass development was completed seven years ago. Since that time Eastland, Chadstone, Highpoint, The Glen and Westfield Knox have all or are in the process of undertaking exceptionally large expansions.

In the face of such competition the current Westfield Doncaster expansion looks to be Scentre Group's play at keeping the facility on par with its competitors, but can it deliver on amenity and on key public realm upgrades? Late last year Eastland managed to distinguish itself from the pack by way of a highly inclusive and activated public realm which acts as a quasi town centre.

Could Westfield Doncaster deliver a similar outcome? Well on the face of it, no.

The Doncaster centre is still heavily car dependent while Eastland has rail and bus options on its doorstep (what residents of Doncaster would give for that!) with the newly finished Ringwood Station upgrade providing no shortage of foot traffic. Williamsons Road and Doncaster road are wide, inhospitable thoroughfares that don't promote mass foot traffic.

How Westfield Doncaster's upcoming forecourt intends to accommodate and retail pedestrian life when wedged between an eight lane road and the centre itself shapes as an interesting design challenge.

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